BONNER, JOHN, Massachusetts mapmaker and mariner; b. c. 1643, possibly in London; d. 30 Jan. 1725/26 at Boston.
After his arrival in Boston about 1670 he was owner or master of many vessels, including the sloop Mary in Phips*’s Canadian expedition of 1690 and the brigantine Hope, which he piloted to Quebec under a flag of truce in 1706 to bring home the Rev. John Williams (author of The redeemed captive). This experience gave him a reputation as being the New Englander with the best knowledge of the passage up the Canada River (St Lawrence) to Quebec and resulted in his impressment into the service of Admiral Sir Hovenden Walker’s expedition against that city in 1711. He served as pilot of the flagship Edgar, and after part of the fleet was wrecked west of Anticosti Island his counsel against proceeding to Quebec was heeded and the fleet returned to England without accomplishing its objective.
Bonner returned to Boston and spent his remaining years pursuing his maritime interests. His map of Boston, published in 1722, was the first engraved map of that town. He also made a plan of the Boston waterfront in 1714 and a draft of the entrance to Boston harbour in 1716. Bonner was married four times. He was survived by two children, Jane and John, born of his second marriage (to Mary Clark).
The Boston News-Letter of 3 Feb. 1725/26 made the following assessment of his contribution to Massachusetts: “One of the best acquainted with the Coasts of North America, of any of his time; of great Knowledge and Judgment in Marine Affairs; [he] was very much consulted, improved and relyed upon by the Government as a Principal Pilate, in our Marine Expeditions, and with diligent Care and Faithfulness discharged his Trust.”
Boston News-Letter, 26 Aug., 18 Nov. 1706, 3 Feb. 1725/26. “Journal of expedition against Port Royal, 1690,” 54–66. PRO, CSP, Col., 1711–12. 1690, Sir William Phips devant Québec (Myrand), 197. Suffolk County Court records, 1671–1680 (2v., Col. Soc. Mass. pub., XXIX-XXX, Boston, 1933), II, 31–35. Walker expedition (Graham). DAB. New Eng. Hist: and Geneal. Register, V (1851), 174; XIV (1860), 240. The memorial history of Boston including Suffolk county Massachusetts, 1630–1880, ed. Justin Winsor (4v.: Boston, 1880–81), II, liii.